Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Face-Lift 433

Guess the Plot

A Legacy of Ashes

1. When a neighborhood prankster sets fire to Bob's new Subaru station wagon, he becomes obsessed with revenge. Can the love of a good woman--and a new Toyota Highlander--prevent him from going on a killing rampage?

2. Her father was cremated. The letter about her biological mother was burned. Now if Ashlyn wants to learn anything about her family, she'll have to depend on her super power: the inexplicable ability to see the memories and feel the emotions of anyone in her presence. Will the ability prove to be a gift or a curse?

3. He was the most amazing man she ever knew: smart, strong, and sexy. But if Maribel bears the child of Satan, will he love her faithfully forever, or will he leave her only . . . A Legacy of Ashes?

4. Growing up, Sam Smith (aka Sham Shmith) was teased because of his speech impediment, caused by his freakishly long tongue. When Sam grew up, however, he discovered that women went crazy for his long tongue, and he could have, as he put it, "any peesh of ash I want."

5. Land developer Kate Bumbry-Mills, lowered her flame thrower on the fairy ring that caused her so much childhood angst and torched the rosies and posies to ashes and more ashes. Then she fell down and giggled.

6. When her beloved great-aunt Beulah dies, Holly Hollingsworth goes to the will reading with high expectations. But while her cousin Jarred gets the house, her sister gets the jewelry and her brother gets cash, Holly finds she's been given custody of Beulah's cremains. Now she's trying to discover what she did to deserve . . . A Legacy of Ashes.

Original Version

Dear Mr.[Agent],

Ashlyn knows how other people feel. Literally. An inexplicable gift has haunted her since birth, allowing her to feel hidden emotions and see private memories from anyone in her presence. [If it has haunted her since birth, I'm not sure I'd call it a gift.] Yet growing up with an unemployed single father is enough without carrying burdens for everyone else. [I can see how she'd be saddened by some burdens, but carrying burdens for people implies lightening their loads. And for everyone? If you feel the emotions of someone who's happy, are you carrying his burden?]

Her gift has always seemed more like a curse – [Mainly because every guy she goes near is remembering the best sex he ever had, and every woman she goes near is remembering the best shoes she ever had.] until she saves her uncle's life by pulling knowledge from his mind. [Ashlyn, I can't remember which drawer I keep my heart medication in, and which one I keep the Russel's viper in.] Now the gift is growing stronger and Ashlyn must learn to control it, even as her family pushes her to use it for their own gain. [Hey Ash, just as an experiment, can you scan that guy's memories for his VISA number?] In a very real world of poverty, pressure, and troubled parents, Ashlyn has to decide what she wants her future to be. Depression and anorexia push her down the wrong path. If Ashlyn can stop the cycle in time, she can rise above the broken legacy of her family.

A LEGACY OF ASHES is complete at 60,000 words and is available for review at your convenience. Many thanks for considering my work.

[PS: The novel is called A Legacy of Ashes because both of her parents get represented through ashes - her father is cremated, and a letter about her biological mother gets burned.]


Too much generality. What are the specifics on how Ashlyn saves her uncle's life? What, specifically, do her family members want her to do with her gift? What is this cycle she needs to rise above? What is the wrong path she is pushed down by depression and anorexia?

Can she focus her power on an individual, or is she constantly feeling everyone's emotions and memories? Can she turn off her power when she wants to? Has she really been seeing other people's memories since birth?

Is there a main plot thread, set when Ashlyn is a certain age? Or is it just things that happen to a character with an inexplicable gift over the course of her life? What will happen when her gift becomes really powerful and she learns to control it? Will she find peace at last? Become a superhero? Start a charity? What's her ultimate goal and what are the obstacles? That's your story.

You can't answer all these questions in one page, but answer them somewhere and decide which answers belong on the page.


Bernita said...

Actually,my impression is that Ashlyn has enough troubles without anexoria and depression thrown in.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting to me. Though, I want to know her age. Is this a YA book?

I agree with EE - more specifics needed. Maybe omit the uncle and focus more on the family issues - what they want to gain by these specific things she can do for them . . .

Ali said...

The topic looks intriguing but I'm having a hard time imagining a 60,000 word book that covers depression, anorexia, troubled parents, family trying to use the protagonist's gift, uncle's near death, father's death, and learning to control her abilities with anywhere near the depth I would hope for in even a YA novel. Regardless of whether it works in the book, you might want to lighten the load of the query and focus on what's really important in your story, which I assume is the mind-reading and the growth of Ashlyn in relation to it. Maybe the uncle's near-death since it sounds like that's a turning point.

One other thing that's nagging at me. You call the empathic mind-reading a gift, but your protagonist doesn't? It seems like the query should reflect the protagonists' view, using the term Ashlyn would use for most of the novel. If it turns out to be a gift in the end, that might be perfect for the closing sentence of your query, but to call it a gift and simultaneously say that it haunts her and is a curse (and to imply it leads to conflict with her family, anorexia and depression) leads me to wonder whether the author of the query really understands Ashlyn's point of view. I'm guessing that's not the impression you're aiming for.

Stacy said...

I'm with bernita and ali on this. The anorexia and depression make Ashlyn's troubles a little over the top. Also, they contribute to the meandering feel of your query. Rewriting with EE's suggestions would improve this a great deal.

But the concept sounds interesting! I'd definitely read with a much-improved query.

Anonymous said...

Does the "legacy" also include the MC's name, Ashlyn? Also, is her gift/curse a legacy from an ancestor or does it remain inexplicable?

Robin S. said...

This sounds like it could be good- but I agree with ali - waiting to call Ashlyn's empathic abiities a gift until she feels they are a gift seems like a good idea.

I very much like the first line of your query: "Ashlyn knows how other people feel." I think this is a good place to begin.

I'd look at structuring the rest around some of the comments here.

writtenwyrdd said...

I thought the query was depressing, not interesting. I loathe tear-jerkers, and this felt like the direction you were trying to go: Pathos. What it needed for me was to give me a reason to like her, care for her...and a plot. What does she DO and what are the consequences of action?

Lightsmith said...

When I saw the Guess the Plot featuring the character named Ashlyn, I thought, well, this one obviously can't be real, because surely nobody would write a book called "A Legacy of Ashes" and then name their MC Ashlyn. That would be like if "Crime and Punishment" featured characters named Dmitri Crimevich and Pyotr Punishmentov.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has chimed in with good stuff here. I, too, like the first sentence. And her name was fine with me. No brain trigger to ashes, but it is morning. The problem with this, for me, is that Ashlyn's memories of her life might be a bit bizarre.

When I think back to the earliest memories of my childhood, I know those things happened to me. Does Ashlyn get confused? Does she think things she felt or saw from other people really happened to her? Or is there a distinction in her head as to what is hers and what came from outside?

Since she has this from birth, it could create a huge psychological issue for her. I'm thinking that perhaps she needs to get it at puberty or some such time in her life when she has already established her own personality. Or does getting it at birth mean she grows up dealing with it and therefore it doesn't cause any additional problems?

If you need this 'gift' to make her unstable, puberty could still be a good time for it. Raging hormones and other people's thoughts at the same time? Yep, that's enough to unbalance a child.

It is a very interesting premise. I hope to see you rework the query and move forward with this.


Anonymous said...

Whoa, there's a nonfiction book called "legacy of Ashes" that was nominated for the National Book Award.